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The Street Lamp Paradox: Analysing Students’ Evaluation of Teaching through Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches

Patrizia Maria Margherita Ghislandi, Juliana Elisa Raffaghelli, Albert Sangrà, Giuseppe Ritella


This paper presents a study about Students Evaluation of Teaching (SET). Student surveys delivered at the end of the academic course is an approach currently applied in all Italian university courses. However, the quality of teaching is a multi-layered phenomenon whose evaluation might require additional methods. In this study, concerning a course offered during the academic year 2016/2017, we propose the qualitative analysis of students’ final essays, which includes the students’ opinion about teaching quality. The qualitative evaluation of teaching is then compared with the results of the standard SET survey. 48 students filled in the survey, while 47 delivered their final essay (a corpus of about 650 text pages). Our study shows that while the standard survey provides an overall picture useful at institutional level for Quality Assurance (QA), the qualitative approach captures an accurate account of students’ reactions, sensitive to the pedagogical approach adopted. This provides additional information on the students’ perspectives regarding the specific features of the course. Our case study suggests that the integration of traditional SET survey with qualitative teaching evaluation approaches, at least for innovative courses based on socio-constructivist learning, might provide information, overlooked in the Italian SET survey, that is useful for Quality Enhancement (QE) of teaching.


Qualitative evaluation of teaching; Quality assurance; Quality enhancement; Socio-constructivist learning; Student evaluation of teaching.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/ecps-2020-021-ghis

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Journal of Educational, Cultural and Psychological Studies (ECPS)
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (19/05/2010 n. 278)
Online ISSN 2037-7924 - Print ISSN 2037-7932

Research Laboratory on Didactics and Evaluation - Department of Education - "Roma Tre" University

Executive Editor: Gaetano Domenici - Managing  Editor: Valeria Biasci
Editorial Board: Giuditta Alessandrini - Eleftheria Argyropoulou - Massimo Baldacci - Joao Barroso - Richard Bates - Christofer Bezzina - Paolo Bonaiuto - Lucia Boncori - Pietro Boscolo - Sara Bubb  - Carlo Felice Casula - Jean-Émile Charlier - Lucia Chiappetta Cajola - Carmela Covato - Jean-Louis Derouet - Peter Early - Franco Frabboni - Constance Katz - James Levin - Pietro Lucisano  - Roberto Maragliano - Romuald Normand - Michael Osborne - Donatella Palomba - Michele Pellerey - Clotilde Pontecorvo - Vitaly V. Rubtzov - Jaap Scheerens - Noah W. Sobe - Francesco Susi - Giuseppe Spadafora - Pat Thomson
Editorial Staff: Fabio Alivernini - Guido Benvenuto - Anna Maria Ciraci - Massimiliano Fiorucci - Luca Mallia - Massimo Margottini - Giovanni Moretti - Carla Roverselli 
Editorial Secretary:
Nazarena Patrizi